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Case Set to Challenge EPA’s GHG Regs

Oral arguments will begin February 28 in a case challenging a “weak link” in the EPA’s regulatory process for greenhouse gas emissions, according to Greg Gasperecz, VP of environmental, health and safety at Enviance.

Gasperecz was speaking to participants in Environmental Leader’s latest webinar, GHG and the Crystal Ball: The EPA’s (not so clear) Path Forward for Regulating GHG Emissions. (Click the link to listen to a recording of the webinar.)

He said a group of industry interests called the Coalition for Responsible Regulation has appealed the EPA’s tailoring rule, which sets timing and thresholds for GHG regulations.

The EPA says that Congress has not framed clear GHG regulations under the Clean Air Act, and has cited a 1984 case between Chevron and NRDC as a basis for its actions. The finding in this case stated that when congressional intent is not clear for a given regulatory framework, the EPA should frame a reasonable interpretation.

But Gasperecz said the ruling is a weak link because it does not allow any sector-specific higher threshold, and does not allow grandfathering. Permits issued before January 2, 2011 do not get re-opened, for example.

Gasperecz said the EPA’s GHG regulations comprise three main legs: the tailoring rule for the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD); new source performance standards (NSPSs); and vehicle standards.

John McManus, vice president of environmental services at American Electric Power, told the webinar that the EPA already has dozens of NSPSs across categories including power, steel, chemicals and mining. What it’s doing now, he says – looking to develop NSPSs for existing sources – is more unusual.

McManus said the traditional NSPS focus on new and modified sources was relatively effective in reducing emissions because it focused on industries where there was a high turnover of emission sources. But the power sector is different, with plants from the 1950s and 1960s still capable of operating efficiently.

So a key question for the EPA is how hard it is going to push the energy industry on these still-efficient plants. From EPA feedback given at its listening session, it appears the agency won’t be looking for dramatic emissions reductions in the near term, McManus said.

The EPA also needs to face the problem of emissions reduction measures that can actually raise GHG output. Certain technologies for controlling emissions hurt efficiency and therefore stymie GHG reductions, McManus said.

He noted that the agency plans to publish its finalized cross-state air pollution rule and utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule in the next two months.

To listen to a recording of the webinar, GHG and the Crystal Ball: The EPA’s (not so clear) Path Forward for Regulating GHG Emissions, click the link.

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